All of us want to be better parents and we want to do it keeping in mind that we have professional requirements that may be the single biggest driver of our ability to be good parents. Work stress can mean parenting stress. Parenting stress can mean work stress. And all of it adds up to the Holy Grail “work-life” balance mantra that we hear everyone talk about, but that no one seems to be able to really decode.
Daisy Wademan Dowling, a Harvard Business Review contributor and HR professional does a good job of trying to distill the complexities of work-life balance in her recent HBR piece “Balancing Parenting and Work Stress: A Guide.” The guide is a nice set of reminders about how to navigate the psychological and logistical challenges of being a good parent and professional. Read it and learn some solid tips about the balance through the lens of a good HR professional.
The piece seems unsatisfying – it feels like life hacks through the lens of your workplace’s tools and tricks so that you can more effectively “manage” your life and work balance, rather than really “live” a balance. Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I think that limiting the stress of being a parent and high achiever in the workplace can also be found through some simpler strategies.
- Be present and keep boundaries. When you’re with your children and/or your spouse/significant other, be with them. Hear them and listen to them. Engage them and love them. Do the same for your colleagues when you’re at work. Mindfulness and boundary-setting at home or at work make both better. And on a related note:
- Segment your day. Establish “just for” times and work to protect them. If early morning at work is for answering emails and so is the end of the day, then protect it. If you have late-afternoon obligations for your children, fence them off and be sure that your supervisor and colleagues know. If dinner time is uninterrupted family time, ensure that your family sees it and you live it.
- Make choices and stick to them. If you want work flexibility to be more present for your children, then make career choices that allow that or negotiate them as Dowling notes in her article. Your children are your life’s work and only you can determine how to navigate that with your professional wishes.
- Put down the technology. It’s with no small irony that I make this recommendation in an article on our site and in our app, I know. When you’re with your family, put down the technology. When you’re at work, ensure that your children and family know when you’re available and not via phone, text, etc. The less interrupted your time is either at work or at home, the more productive and better your time will be in both places.
To close, it’s tempting to take our work strategies and apply them to parenting. Dowling does a nice job with translating those in her piece. But I wonder: what if we took some of the best parenting strategies (mindfulness, empathy, conversation, engagement) and extended them more to the workplace? Rather than bringing a business book mentality to parenting, how about a parenting book/philosophy approach to work instead?
One of our contributors, Marcus Bevier, talks more here about how he achieves this balance and it’s pretty terrific. We’re interested in what you think: what strategies as a parent help you be a better colleague and create that work-life equilibrium for you? How about vice versa? Let us know @guidepostparent!
About the Author
Bill Anderson is a father of 4 who shares his experiences about parenting and life with Guidepost Parent.
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